Stop, In the Name of Dog (Before You Break Your Leg)

I just saw some guy walking two beautiful golden retrievers down Witherspoon Street in Princeton, New Jersey. He crossed the street without really looking where he was going, then nearly collided with a car turning into the intersection. I repeat for the nth time that if American crosswalks were designed like the crosswalks of Barcelona, none of this would ever have happened. But they aren’t, and no one ever listens to my pro-Barcelona urban planning rants anyway.* Continue reading

War with Iran (22): The War Must Go On

The American people may not have noticed the recent attack on the U.S. Embassy in Baghdad, likely the work of Iranian proxies, but rest assured that Secretary of State Mike Pompeo did, and used it as an occasion to remind us of the ongoing nature of the war that was supposed to have ended in January:

U.S. Secretary of State Michael Pompeo said Iran must be held accountable for its proxies’ attacks on American forces in Baghdad, warning that such violence can’t become routine.

“It cannot become ordinary course that the Iranians, through their proxy forces in Iraq, are putting the lives of Americans at risk,” Pompeo told reporters on his plane as he prepared to fly from Addis Ababa to Riyadh, Saudi Arabia, on Wednesday. “There has to be accountability connected to those very serious attacks.”

Pompeo was referring to a Feb. 16 incident in which several rockets landed inside the U.S. Embassy compound in Baghdad, causing minimal damage and no injuries.

“Those very serious attacks.” Continue reading

Bloomberg on “Stop and Frisk” (Part 1 of 2)

I can’t stand Michael Bloomberg. I don’t intend to vote for him, and regard his entry into the presidential race as a net loss for liberty and justice. That said, I also think that some of what’s been said in criticism of him is confused, and in some cases downright childish. Unfortunately, this is particularly true of the policy that most obviously redounds to Bloomberg’s discredit: stop and frisk. If we’re going to nail Bloomberg on stop and frisk, we need to get the issue right, or at least avoid getting it wrong. But “we” haven’t. Continue reading

The Unwarranted Demonization of Scot Peterson (6): Vengeance Is Theirs

Friday was the second anniversary of the tragic Parkland shooting. The shooting was remembered in an appropriate-enough way in the media, except for one (to me) conspicuous thing: the continued, thoughtless, fact-free demonization of Scot Peterson, the School Resource Officer universally blamed for not entering the building where the shooting took place. Almost without exception, journalism about Parkland continues to take for granted the unexamined dogmas that Peterson “failed” to enter Building 12 and “failed” to confront the shooter, that he knew where the shooter was but deliberately hid from danger, and that his malfeasance goes beyond cowardice to legally actionable neglect, and beyond civil wrong to outright criminality. Continue reading

War with Iran (21): Weapons of Mass Media Distraction

The last time the US Embassy in Baghdad was on the receiving end of rocket attacks, the mass media was too fixated on Kobe Bryant to notice. This time, they’re fixated on the coronavirus. Hardly a surprise that the same media, and same public, still regard 9/11 as an unexpected “bolt from the blue” almost twenty years after the fact. There’s always an excuse to be distracted from the wars “we’re” waging, and always a narrative ready to make it look as though every attack on us is an unprovoked “sucker punch.” Every “surprise” leads, predictably, to another war. But for now, no casualties means no worries.

“Issues in Local Government”

I like democracy. Democracy is perhaps best exemplified in local government. Hence, I like local government.

You might quibble that that’s not a valid argument, and suggest that the conclusion is a reductio, but hey, democracy is messy.

Anyway, I’m interested in local government. To that end, I’m organizing and moderating a panel discussion at Felician University that you might want to attend if you’re in the neighborhood. Sponsored by the Felician Institute for Ethics and Public Affairs. Continue reading

Quid Pro No

So they get our freedom of speech, conscience, and association, along with our money and our moral support, and, in return, we get a tweet from their half-ousted Prime Minister. Sounds like the Deal of the Century. Actually, sounds like the deal of the last century, too.

Doxastic Determination by Thesis Advisor?

Another head-scratcher from Jason Brennan’s BHL piece on meta-philosophy (timestamp: 10:16 am, February 12, 2020):

Second, what people believe tends to depend a great deal on who their advisors were. People who go to Harvard tend to come out Kantians of some sort. People who go to Arizona tend to come out Gaussian contractualists or Schmidtzean pluralists. Now, some of this is due to selection–the Kantians are more likely to apply to Harvard than, say, consequentialist ANU. Part of it, though, is that when you attend a program with people who defend X, you encounter much better arguments for X and weaker arguments for other positions. But this seems to a rather unreliable mechanism for changing your beliefs. A Guassian contractualist like Kevin would have ended up believing something else had he gone to a different program. Is it just lucky for him he attended Arizona and not Harvard? Is it just lucky for him that he had Gaus as an advisor instead of Christiano, Schmidtz, Wall, Pincione, or someone else?

Isn’t this the kind of claim that requires bona fide empirical support? I don’t see any here. I just see Brennan recording his quasi-empirical impressions of a handful of institutions, followed by a gigantic epistemic generalization about the whole profession. Forget selection versus treatment effects. A treatment effect presupposes an effect. Not obvious there is one. Continue reading

Doing It with Style: Jason Brennan on the History of Philosophy

From a recent contribution by Jason Brennan to the ongoing polemic between Michael Huemer and Kevin Vallier on the history of philosophy (as posted at BHL at 2:45 pm, February 11, 2020):

Context: Michael Huemer claims that the “great” philosophers are usually bad thinkers. They defend implausible ideas with bad arguments.

Vallier responds that the great philosophers are like architects. Their great achievement is that they build coherent systems of thought.

I’m not much convinced by Vallier’s response in part because, when I studied the history of philosophy or read papers in the field, it seems that the “greats” often have incoherent systems. A large number of published papers on the greats, and good number of the classes, take the form of “Great Thinkers says X here and Y here, but X and Y are seemingly incompatible. Let me try to figure out a way to spin X and Y to render then coherent.”

Don’t really see how the intended conclusion follows.

Continue reading